A three-year study conducted by the South Carolina Department of Transportation suggests widening part of Interstate 526 and implementing traffic abatement strategies to reduce congestion on the highway.
"This is a road map to improving the corridor for the next 20 years," said Michael Dennis, a technical applications engineer with SCDOT.
The plans, presented to the public for the first time Tuesday night, are subject to environmental impact studies and public approval before moving forward. Most major work would begin in 2020 or later.
I-526 would be widened from the inside of the road from Paul Cantrell Boulevard to east of Rivers Avenue. This type of widening will impact the area surrounding the highway less, according to Rick Dade, a Stantec consultant who worked with SCDOT on the study.
This portion of I-526 would go from a four-lanes to six, reducing traffic congestion, especially around rush hour. The widening would cost nearly $101 million and begin in 2020 as laid out in the study.
Another proposed method of alleviating traffic woes is to employ "traffic demand management strategies" like carpooling, increased public transit use and altered working hours at major area employers. Voni Gilreath, a senior planner for North Charleston City Council, is already working on some of these strategies, many of which will be expanded this fall, including van and carpooling programs.
Many of the report's suggestions strategies for reducing traffic will start this year, according to Stantec engineer Rick Reiff.
Some of the area's largest employers, including Boeing, the city of North Charleston and SCDOT, are working to compress work weeks, stagger employee shifts and increase telecommuting, according to the report.
These strategies will reduce traffic on I-526 by 5 to 10 percent, according to Dennis.
"This may not extend the life of the corridor long, but it will buy us some time," he said.
The study also suggests changing the access route to the Charleston International Airport to Montague Road from International Road, which would reduce traffic at the intersection of I-526 and International Road by 20 percent and accommodate the growing Boeing campus in North Charleston.
Reach Amanda Coyne at 937-5592.
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